Indiana State Fair 2019 Photos, Part 1 of 6: Our Year in Food

Relleno de Papa!

Frying! It’s what’s for dinner!

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually we’re all about the food. Each year a new lineup of “Taste of the Fair” offerings showcases new ideas from assorted food vendors in hopes of luring in foodies and/or impressing attendees who want to do more every year than simply eating the same tenderloin again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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Superman Celebration 2017 Photos, Part 3 of 4: Festival Food!

Jumbo Corn Dog!

Behold a jumbo corn dog so weighty, you could fend off a Sith Lord with it.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: on June 9th and 10th my wife Anne and I attended the 39th annual Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL, a grand bash in honor of the Man of Steel in particular and all the super-heroes who owe their existence and livelihoods to him in general.

We’ve been to Metropolis six times and developed a deep appreciation for one of the most integral aspects of the Celebration: concession stands! Lots of local vendors convene on the scene to bring their culinary A-game, much of it sinfully delectable and almost none of it good for you. Most fans burn off the extra calories walking up and down Market Street all weekend or standing in lines for hours. At the very least they need fuel sources to replenish what they’re sweating off by the gallon in those high summertime temps.

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Indiana State Fair 2016 Photos #1: Our Year in Food

Double Barrel Burger!

We called it the “Goodbye Cruel World Burger”.

It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians that other people love, and farm animals competing for cash prizes and herd bragging rights. My wife and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. At least 70% of our quest is always food.

Right this way for a look at this year’s “Taste of the Fair” contestants!

2014 Road Trip Photos #7: Another State, Another State Fair

Fried Cookie Dough!

Your ideal Wisconsin post-lunch dessert: fried cookie dough! Each ball of batter-fried gooeyness contains a different flavor of cookie dough: sugar, peanut butter, chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, and white chocolate macadamia.

Longtime MCC readers know my wife and I are loyal fans of the Indiana State Fair. Despite all the road trips we’ve done over the past fifteen years, we’ve never tried anyone else’s state fair. The idea has occurred to us more than once, but most state fairs are held later in the year than our vacation week. It’s not our fault that everyone else’s timing is wrong.

This year we were shocked to discover a state fair held in July and in one of the states we were already planning to visit: the Northern Wisconsin State Fair, held each year in Chippewa Falls for the benefit of upstate residents who can’t work out travel arrangements to the adjectiveless Wisconsin State Fair outside Milwaukee, down in the southeast corner of the state. Once we confirmed it would exist during the right time frame and not far off our route, we had to squeeze it into our Day Two schedule.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Each year from 2003 to 2013 my wife, my son, and your humble writer headed out on a long road trip to anywhere but here. Our 2014 road trip represented a milestone of sorts: our first vacation in over a decade without my son tagging along for the ride. At my wife’s prodding, I examined our vacation options and decided we ought to make this year a milestone in another way — our first sequel vacation. This year’s objective, then: a return to Wisconsin and Minnesota. In my mind, our 2006 road trip was a good start, but in some ways a surface-skimming of what each state has to offer. I wanted a do-over.

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Indiana State Fair to Feature Spaghetti Ice Cream, Acrobats, Things Starting with “Fried”

Indiana State Fair to Feature Spaghetti Ice Cream, Acrobats, Things Starting with “Fried”

100% pasta-free!Behold the official signature food of the 2012 Indiana State Fair, a faux-Italian dish called Spaghetti and Meatballs Ice Cream. The base of this concoction is spaghetti-shaped gelato, topped with strawberry sauce playing the part of tomato sauce, white chocolate shavings in place of parmesan cheese, and meat-free chocolate balls as toppers. In a year where one of the exhibit halls will be hosting a salute to Italy, this seems a fitting, obvious choice. Nutrition information has not yet been released for us to determine if this dessert is healthier than the average pasta dinner.

Signature food competitions in past years have featured ingredients such as corn, tomatoes, and pork, all the better to celebrate our fair state’s farmer majority. Last year’s ingredient was soybeans, which inspired one winner that actually contained any soybeans (deep-fried ice cream!) and four wannabes whose soybean use was indirect and impossible to taste except perhaps to the most hardcore soy junkie. This year’s theme ingredient is dairy, one of my favorite food groups. Other competitors — all of which will also be on sale this year, if you can find the right booths — include caramel corn sundaes, fried cream cheese squares (three flavors, including spinach), and cannoli.

Other new culinary will be premiering out of competition, such as fried Samoas. The official Girl Scout cookie joins the hallowed ranks of Twinkies, Oreos, Snickers bars, and countless other snack foods that brave concession-stand pioneers have dipped in batter and fried heartily in the name of snack science. I’m not sure the Samoa’s coconut/chocolate base has enough fans to match the sales of the old mainstays, but we’ll see.

Donut Burger. Sweet. Salty. Sinister.2012 also brings new experiments from Carousel Foods, the makers of the State Fair’s own donut burger, pictured at right from its Indiana debut in 2010. (In case you’re wondering: yes, I ate it, and yes, I obviously died shortly thereafter.) The Carousel madpeople have let their imaginations run wild with at least two new main courses: a “raspberry donut chicken burger” (presumably self-explanatory) and a “bacon peanut butter banana burger” (I felt my cholesterol rising just by typing that). If the State Fair ever celebrates the Year of Burgers, I expect them to submit five different nominees that shame all the other burger stands into shutting down and changing career tracks.

There will also be non-food things such as animals, rides, acrobats, 4-H projects, and famous bands that don’t appeal to me. The more the food changes, the more the rest stays the same. Not that there has to be anything wrong with that. I realize I’m vastly outnumbered by the rest of the crowd and will never see an early-’90s alt-rock act perform there. The fair has to turn a profit. But I can still dream.

To balance out the sampling of bizarre foods, my wife and I do more than our fair share of walking on our annual State Fair date-day. We eschew the shuttles and amble all over the fairgrounds — Expo Hall exhibits to the south, animals to the southeast, acrobat shows to the northeast, maybe a brief stroll through the Midway to confirm we’re not much into rides anymore. One fun walking activity: the search to find all those new-food booths. We can always rely on a few of them to inhabit the main straightaway on the south end, but there are always one or two obscure vendors who require a long round of hide-and-seek to track down, or who require us to venture to otherwise empty territories, such as the tranquil horse-barn cluster on the east end. All those miles of walking should burn off as much as 3% of our caloric intake.

This year’s Indiana State Fair will run August 3-19, starting the exact same day as my son’s new school year. Thus is our annual date-day sanctified once again. With an entertainment lineup of African acrobats, “extreme” trampoline users, and opportunities for attendees to try their hand at milking a real live cow, our day looks to be anything but dull and far from underfed.

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